Category Archives: local

health+ade+kombucha, focus+on+local

Still Focused on Being the Best Tasting and Highest Quality Kombucha!

Where We Check Back in with Daina, Justin, and Vanessa

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three-and-one-half years since I last interviewed Daina at Health-Ade (read about my visit here) so recently a few of us headed to Torrance for an update. What we found was amazing! They have gone from a little three-person start-up in 2012 to a massive operation, but the spirit of small, hand-crafted quality still permeates everything in the building.

health+ade+kombucha, focus+on+local
image from health-ade.com

This time Vanessa showed us around. She, Daina, and Justin started brewing kombucha in a closet just a few years ago, and now they are a national company. They brew 120,000 bottles of kombucha every day! 

health+ade+kombucha, focus+on+local
Daina, Justin, and Vanessa in 2014

The forces that drove these three when they first started Health-Ade are the forces that still drive them today. They still brew in 2 & 1/2 gallon glass jars — 60,000 of them every week. No plastic! They still use the highest quality ingredients possible. Their ingredients are Organic! They filter their water. They source responsibly. The leftover tea bags, SCOBYs, and juice pulp are all composted. And so much more. 

You have to see it to appreciate the scale of this operation. There is fifty-thousand clean, organized square feet of activity that pumps out 320,000 cases of Kombucha per month — that’s just a bit of an expansion from the 35,000 cases per month they were producing in 2014! 

health+ade+kombucha, focus+on+local
image from health-ade.com

And each batch rests for 1-3 weeks while the kombucha develops just the right amount of bubbly probiotics that are so crucial for a healthy gut.

 image from health-ade.com

Thanks for hosting us, Vanessa — We love Health-Ade! It’s great to see how you’ve grown!

 image from health-ade.com 

Love,

Lassen’s

freezer+monkey, frozen+treats, focus+on+local, local+products, local+producers, women+owned+business

Focus on Local–Freezer Monkey Gourmet Frozen Treats

These Are Not Your Average Frozen Treats!  They are Gourmet!

Freezer+Monkey Frozen+Gourmet+Treats, lassensloves.com, Lassen's, Lassens
 

Meet Tiffany!

Tiffany grew up in Santa Barbara, and has always loved this area.  She went to art school in New York, but eventually ended up in San Francisco, where she found her true calling in culinary school.  She worked in restaurants for over 15 years as a pastry and dessert chef.  She got to develop recipes and see her creations bring joy to many patrons.
 
But life brought her back to Ventura County.  She decided that she wanted to branch out and do something on her own, so she took a 14-week course on how to start your own business through WEV–Women’s Economic Ventures.  (For more information on WEV, click here.)  She had to write a business plan, and thought that she might start her own bakery.  But those plans just didn’t seem right for her and her children.  In October 2011 a sweltering heat wave hit Thousand Oaks and she found herself making frozen treats for her kids.  They were a huge hit and the kids kept coming back for more.   It was a light-bulb moment.  She dug out her recipe collection, looking for sorbet and ice cream recipes.  Her business plan abruptly changed.  Soon she created several different flavors and launched the Blueberry Dessert Company.  Her son named the line of pops when he came in, asking for more of those “freezer monkeys!”

 

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Watch This!

Last week I got to follow Tiffany around as she made her Caramelized Pineapple Pops.  First, she caramelizes some sugar in a heavy pot.  (To learn how to do this yourself, see my post on candying pecans for a spinach/pear salad found here. )

 

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Tiffany poured the caramelized sugar over fresh pineapple pieces, 

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and then added a little red Hawaiian sea salt.

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Tiffany blended the pineapple, caramel and salt until pureed.  

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Once everything was pureed very fine, she strained the mixture to remove the tough solids. 

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After removing the foam (too much air for a pop!) Tiffany poured the strained puree into these amazing molds that she got from Brazil.

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The lid, with the sticks, went on last.  It clamped everything together.

 

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The mold was lowered into a container with propylene glycol, a food-grade liquid that has a very low freezing point.  The liquid was -15 degrees, and the pops were frozen in about 15 minutes!  (None of the propylene glycol gets into the pops–it just surrounds the mold.)

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Amazing!  The quick-freeze time reduces the opportunity for crystals to form in the treats, so the result is a smooth and creamy texture. 

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The treats were popped out of the molds, and they were ready for packaging.

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Tiffany stamps the date on every pop.  

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Lassen’s carries six Freezer Monkey flavors–all delicious!  Great for these hot days, but also for all throughout the year!  (No reason to stop eating frozen treats in California!)

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Next up for Tiffany?  Watch for her Bon-Bons, coming soon!  I tried the Vietnamese Coconut–it was amazing!

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There’s nothing like the fun of a frozen treat on a stick, and Tiffany’s Freezer Monkey Treats are more than just frozen colored sugar water!  They are made with real fruit and other natural ingredients!  You’ll love them! 

Love,
 
Lassen’s
focus+on+local, local+producers, ojai+olive+oil, olive+oil, healthy+fats, organic+olive+oil

Focus on Local–Ojai Olive Oil

Ojai Olive Oil

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I sure didn’t appreciate the beauty of the olive tree when I had one in the front yard of our first little house.  It was pretty, but I had no idea what was hiding in those little orbs.  The nutritional value of olive oil is vast.  From this website I learned that olive oil can improve the immune system and protect agains viruses.  Heart disease, cancer, strokes, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and other conditions can be beneficially affected by consuming olive oil.  (Very interesting information!)  Olives are an important part of the Mediterranean Diet — you can learn more at the balance me beautiful website — which is a super healthy way to eat!

 

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I recently spent an afternoon with Alice Asquith, who showed me around the Ojai Olive Oil company’s olive grove and pressing operation, and learned so much more about the amazing olive.  It was a gorgeous summer day in Ojai, and Alice was kind and gracious.  

A Little History…

Did you know that until the 1780s, there were no olive trees in California?  The Padres from Spain introduced the trees so that they could have their olive oil.  It took over 100 years before California farmers were interested in growing olives.  In fact, there are still not enough olive growers in America to supply America’s olive oil needs.  Only 20% of the olive oil Americans consume is produced in America, even though there are many climates that are suited to olive growing.  

 

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In 1982, Alice’s husband, Ronald, bought a ten acre orange grove as a retirement project.  They moved to Ojai from metropolitan Los Angeles, and eventually replanted the grove in olives.  In 1998 he bought 36 more acres, where they now have the center of their operation. This grove had been planted in 1880!  The original farmers made oil until 1910, but after that the trees just sat — for 78 years.  No oil was made from the olives–they just fell to the ground and rotted.  Ron began to give them lot of TLC, and after just three years, the trees began to produce beautifully.  In 2001 they made their first olive oil.    The entire grove is now certified organic. 

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They started selling their oil–in their signature blue bottles–at farmer’s markets.

Ron decided to plant other varieties, and now they have nine different olive varieties in the groves.  At first they blended all of the varieties into their blended oil, but now they make both pure and blended variety oils.  

 

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 Three years ago they started suppling their oil to a cosmetic maker, and they have lovely soaps and creams made from their oil.

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Ronald spent many hours studying and learning about olive growing, and he had some wonderful mentors to help him along his way.  The groves now have over 3000 trees, which are thriving, but Alice said that “the weather is the boss.”  From budding to harvest, the trees must be nurtured.

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Photo from Ojai Olive Oil

The olive trees blossom in late April or so, and it takes six months from blossom to first harvest.  The olives will stay green for as long as possible, and then they start to ripen in early October.  During the harvest time they have to constantly watch the olives to make sure they harvest at the right time.  They wait until most of the olives are ripe–have turned color–then they harvest, all by hand.

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Photo from Ojai Olive Oil

It takes sixty pounds of olives to make one gallon of olive oil!  But if the weather has been very hot, the yield will be a little higher.  The olives are taken directly from the groves to be milled the day they are harvested. 

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First the olives are washed and the leaves blown off, and then the olives are crushed–chopped and pushed through a sieve. 

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You can see how the olives would be crushed as they moved down through this part of the machine and into the next step!  

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Once it moves into the drums, the olives are now the consistency of paste, and looks sort of like oatmeal.

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Photo from Ojai Olive Oil

The paste is stirred up slowly.  No heat or water is added.  It is protected from air to prevent oxidation.   

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The paste begins to separate, and then the centrifuge begins to spin to assist the separation by density and weight.  It takes 90 minutes from start to finish!  They can process up to 800 pounds of olives per hour.  The oil is strained and bottled.

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Photo from Ojai Olive Oil

The International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) has established standards for extra-virgin olive oil.  A sample of every batch of Ojai Olive Oil is sent to a lab for blind testing to make sure it meats the highest standards, and has less than 0.8% acidity.

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This Tuscan is one of the Ojai Olive Oil blends!

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Photo from Ojai Olive Oil

At the end of the process, there is a waste made of pulp, skins, and pits, shown above.  Ojai Olive Oil Company uses this to make compost.  

Some companies will add chemicals and apply heat to the waste so they can extract more of the oil.  However, these oils do not meet the “Extra-virgin” standards, and are often sold under the names, “Pure” or “Extra Light Tasting.”  These oils are about as far away from extra-virgin as can be.  (Do not be fooled by the “pure” label!)  And they do not have the health benefits of extra-virgin olive oil.
 
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Ojai Olive Oil Company also gives free tours and tastings at their grove.  You can see the machines and taste the oils!  For times and more detailed information about their ranch and story, click here.

If you have a morning or afternoon to stroll through an olive grove and learn about olive oil–not to mention taste some delightful deliciousness–I recommend going to Ojai and take a tour.  But if you don’t have the time, remember that you can find this deliciousness at Lassen’s.  
 
Love, 
 
Lassen’s
gluten+free, gluten+free+baking+mix, baking+mix

Focus on Local–Arnel’s Gluten-Free Baking Mixes

Gluten Just Might Be Your Enemy

lassensloves.com, Lassen's, Lassens, Arnel's Gluten+Free, Baking+Mixes
 
This is Arnel, of Arnel’s Originals Gluten-Free Baking Mixes!  She was your average mom, but was concerned with some unexplained behavior and health issues with her two daughters.  They had nervous system issues–tantrums, anxiety, anger, stress, and skin issues–rashes, and eczema. She knew something was wrong, but didn’t know what it could possibly be, and didn’t know where to start.  After reading as much as she could find, she started to suspect food allergies.  So in 1996 she put her family on an elimination diet to see if they were sensitive to allergens.  (To see Arnel’s suggestions for going on an elimination diet, go to her website and find the Feb 2011 post.)  Sure enough, within a couple of weeks she learned that she and both of her daughters were highly sensitive to gluten–in fact, they have celiac disease, which is an auto-immune disease, not just an allergy. 
 
Arnel's+Gluten+Free
 
 
Of course this meant a big life-style change for Arnel’s family.  Everything with gluten had to be eliminated from the home and their diet.  Even a few crumbs can trigger a reaction.  You can imagine what that does to a little girl going to a sleep-over party!  In the early days there were very few gluten-free products on the market!
 
Eventually Arnel decided that she needed to take matters into her own hands, and started experimenting with gluten-free ingredients to make breads and cakes, cookies and pies for her family.
 
lassensloves.com, Lassen's, Lassens, Arnel's Gluten+Free, Baking+Mixes

 

 She had a wonderful mentor named Pippi, who helped her figure out what ingredients worked, and she fiddled with them until she got it just right.  She made her mixes for family and friends at first.  Then in 2009 she began selling her Gluten-Free Baking Mixes in Lassen’s, and today is in many markets.  At first she was blending her mixes by hand in her kitchen, but today the business has grown so much that she has a commercial factory that makes her mixes according to her recipe and specifications.

 

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With these four mixes–organic and certified gluten-free–you can make just about any baked good that you’d like!  Arnel has made the mixes without sweeteners, so you can add what you like–from regular sugar or honey to date sweetener!  You can make chocolate or white or spice cake from the Make-a-Cake Mix–just add what you like!  

 

lassensloves.com, Lassen's, Lassens, Arnel's Gluten+Free, Baking+Mixes

 

I got to bake with Arnel in both her home and at a commercial kitchen, where she bakes her bread for the Farmer’s Market.  In her home we made these yummy cookies!

 

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Moist and delicious!  Those of us who are not sensitive to gluten usually shun anything that is gluten-free, but these are cookies that I could eat every day!

 

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Using the Cake Mix, we also made a strawberry cake, split in half and topped with mashed fresh strawberries.  It was really good–my family ate it up!

 

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I met Arnel at the commercial kitchen to watch her bake some of her delicious buckwheat gluten-free bread.  

 

lassensloves.com, Lassen's, Lassens, Arnel's Gluten+Free, Baking+Mixes

 

Because gluten-free doesn’t have any, well, gluten, the texture of the bread dough was toothpaste-y, not at all like the bread dough I am used to seeing.  

 

lassensloves.com, Lassen's, Lassens, Arnel's Gluten+Free, Baking+Mixes

 

But I trusted that Arnel knew what she was doing (No kneading?  How could that be?) and the end result was a beautiful, golden brown loaf of deliciousness!

 

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Arnel even made me a delicious salmon-salad sandwich with the buckwheat bread.  The bread was everything a sandwich needed!  Light and toasty–just delicious!

 

lassensloves.com, Lassen's, Lassens, Arnel's Gluten+Free, Baking+Mixes

 

If you are sensitive to gluten, or suspect that you might be, try some of Arnel’s baking mixes!  You can have your cake and eat it too!
 
Love,
 
Lassen’s
cool+haus, cool+haus+ice+cream, ice+creamsandwiches, focus+on+local, local+producers

Focus on Local–Coolhaus Ice Cream Sandwiches–Yum!

This is Not Your Average Ice Cream Sandwich from a Truck!

 
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Yes.  I took a bite.  Oh. My.  It had fresh mint leaves!  No artificial flavoring here!

If you have that sweet summer memory of hearing the ice cream truck coming up your street like I do, you can imagine my excitement as I visited the Coolhaus store in Culver City!  I met Natasha and her business partner Freya at their store on Washington Blvd.

lassensloves.com, Lassen's, Lassens, Coolhaus+Ice+Cream+Sandwiches

 

Natasha and Freya started baking cookies and making ice cream in 2008.  The treats were such a hit with all of their friends that they decided to launch Coolhaus–an ice-cream sandwich business with an architectural twist!  They name their creations after architects that they admire (they were in the business before they became entrepreneurs) or architectural movements, such as the above nibbled Mintimalism.

 

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In 2009 they bought a broken-down postal van, filled it with ice cream sandwiches, had it towed to the Coachella Valley Music Festival, where they sold enough to really get started.  And they were off!  There were no gourmet food trucks in LA when they started, so they thought there was a potential market to be tapped.  They were right! 

lassensloves.com, Lassen's, Lassens, Coolhaus+Ice+Cream+Sandwiches

Coolhaus now has 5 trucks in LA, 2 in New York City, a cart in Central Park, and 3 more trucks in Texas (Dallas and Austin), as well as the store in Culver City.  They are opening another store in Pasedena soon.   

lassensloves.com, Lassen's, Lassens, Coolhaus+Ice+Cream+Sandwiches

In the store and from the trucks you can choose your flavors.  They have a fun system of magnets in the trucks with the flavors that are available each day. 

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Choose your cookies! and then…

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Choose your ice cream!  Yum!

 
lassensloves.com, Lassen's, Lassens, Coolhaus+Ice+Cream+Sandwiches

I was there a bit too early for a big serving of ice cream, but there were some awesome choices that I sampled.  The ice cream was delicious and inventive!

 
lassensloves.com, Lassen's, Lassens, Coolhaus+Ice+Cream+Sandwiches

 

Natasha and Freya pay attention to taste trends, and also are willing to stick their necks out on a new flavor. Bacon ice cream, anyone?
 
 
Coolhaus works to use organic ingredients as much as possible.  Their dairy is produced locally and is all natural–totally free of growth hormones (they are working on getting organic and non-GMO as soon as they can.)  
 
Their chocolate is fair-trade, and they are working toward organic ingredients for their cookies as well.  They also use as much local, seasonal, and fresh fruits and herbs as they can. 

 

lassensloves.com, Lassen's, Lassens, Coolhaus+Ice+Cream+Sandwiches

After a few years just selling from the truck and prepackaged in stores, they decided that they needed a location to showcase their brand.  They also had grown enough that they needed a central location for all of the organization that needed to be done.   Natasha said they were going for a “Cool Industrial Aesthetic” in their Culver City store, and I thought it was awesome.  She is so appreciative of Culver City and their neighborhood.  They have been very welcoming to the new store.   

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I just have to add more pictures of these beautiful cookies and this delicious ice cream! 

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The trucks mostly go to private events or to set areas for the day.  They’ve been at the Hollywood Bowl and lots of movie sets!  

lassensloves.com, Lassen's, Lassens, Coolhaus+Ice+Cream+Sandwiches

You don’t have to wait to hear the ice cream truck jingle to taste these treats!  Coolhaus sandwiches are found in freezer cases in 100 stores in 30 states!  Lassen’s is so happy that we feature them in ours.   

Come into Lassen’s where Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches are on special this month!
 
Love,
 

Lassen’s

moss+botanicals, essential+oils, focus+on+local, local+products, produced+in+Ojai, Ventura+County+products

Focus on Local–Moss Botanicals

Natural Aid for Our Well Being 

Last week I had a delightful time as I met Stacey Moss of Moss Botanicals.  She lives and works in Ojai.  Her company has seven aromatic blends, each available in a roll-on oil for the skin, and an aroma mist for diffusing into the air.  
 
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Stacey has always been interested in the field of healing, and has dabbled in herbology.  She took lots of classes in natural healing.  She has some Native American heritage (Lakota), and she has always been fascinated by their belief in natural remedies and cooperative society.  Stacey attended the College of Botanical Healing Arts in Santa Cruz, and is a registered Aromatherapist.  She also has a BA in Social and Behavioral Sciences.  

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Stacey loves plants and herbs, especially natives.  She started to blend her oils for her own personal needs, and soon was sharing them with family and friends.  They started to call her “Medicine Woman” because they could see the benefits of her botanical oil blends.  She launched Moss Botanicals in 2008 as a hobby, but within the last year has started to branch out more.  

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Educating people about the science and art of Aromatherapy is important to Stacey.  She wants to teach people that Aromatherapy is complementary to every kind of lifestyle.  Her blends have names that match what they support in our bodies and lives, but she said that people should see how each blend feels to them as they use them.  Her blends are Ceremony, Balance, Transform, Clear, Relax, Euphoric, and Let Go.

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Stacey’s blends are complementary to Hindu Yogic Chakras as well.  Stacey said they can help balance and harmonize the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of life.  

Stacey is very careful with the sources of her oils.  She makes sure that they are organic and chemical free, and they are blended in a base of pure jojoba oil.  There are no synthetics or preservatives.  Her blends are simple–from 3-5 oils–and are hand blended in small batches.  She would like to try her hand at distilling the oils herself, and is working on making that happen.  
 
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Stacey loves this field because there is always something new to learn.  The science and scientific evidence is growing each year, which is very exciting. 

Stacey said, “I want people to find these [aromatic blends] because of what they can do to help them.”
 
It was such a pleasure to meet Stacey and her daughter Clrallyn, who even drew a portrait of me as I talked with Stacey!  

 

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You can find Moss Botanicals in our Ventura store, and Stacey comes there regularly to introduce her botanical blends.  

 
Thank you Stacey, for a wonderful time!
 
Love,
 
Lassen’s
local+honey, Bennett's+Honey, natural+honey

Focus on Local–Bennett’s Honey Farm

Learn Something Sweet on this Sweet Day

Written by Gayle

 
Bennetts+Bee+Farm

 

 

It was a gorgeous day last week when Mykey (Art Director and Graphic Designer), Bethany (Marketing Director) and I (Owner and Writer) went to Fillmore to tour the facility of one of our local producers, Bennett’s Honey Farm.  They are the source for our Lassen’s Label Honey.  Yum!

 

Bennetts+honey
 
 

 

 
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photo courtesy of Bennett’s

 Bennett’s was founded by Red and Ann Bennett in the late 1970’s.  A swarm of bees landed in their yard, which Red captured and thus started his beekeeping hobby.  It wasn’t long before his hobby expanded into a business.

 
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Photo courtesy of Bennett’s

Ann was happy to get out of the “rat-race” of the big city, and they worked together to build up their business.  Today, they are partners with Chip Vannoy, another local beekeeper, who hosted us at their facility in Fillmore.

 
 
Bennetts+honey, live+hive
 
One of the neat features of Bennett’s Honey farm is their live hive, right in the store!  The queen, here marked with a blue dot, was laying eggs when we were there.

 

Bennetts+honey, live+hive

 

I was happy to have glass separating me and the bees, though!  (I have a not-irrational fear of bees!)

 

Bennetts+honey

 

The bees are housed in wooden hives, which have individual frames where the bees build the comb.  My father was a beekeeper, so I was able to tell how they are put together and what the beekeepers do to keep the bees healthy and happy!  (My dad and brother built a lot of those frames in our basement during our Pacific Northwest winters!)

 

Bennetts+honey

 

Did you know that when bees bring the nectar into the hive it is 70% water?  Then the bees fan with their wings until a lot of the water evaporates and the nectar thickens into honey.  And a bee makes less than 1 tsp of honey in its entire life.  That’s a lot of work!

 

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Once the hives are full of honey, the beekeepers bring it into the facility where the honey is extracted from the frames.  The caps on the honeycomb are removed, and then the honey is spun out into big drums.  The honey is allowed to settle, where beeswax rises to the top.  The honey is only gravity strained–never heated higher than beehive temperatures.  This is really important.  Many producers heat their honey to make it easier to strain and bottle, but high heat removes the pollen and enzymes that are such a healthy part of honey.  Bennett’s Honey Farm only gravity strains through cheesecloth, so the healthy pollens and enzymes are retained in every bottle–it is never filter-pressed.  If you see a bottle of honey that is super clear, that’s a sign that the honey has been heated and the pollen and enzymes have been removed and distroyed.  Beware clear honey!

 

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The next step is bottling.  Bennett’s has a first-rate bottling operation. The honey is fed into the bottles, lidded, vacuum-sealed, and boxed for shipping.

 

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We even got to see some honeycomb being bottled.  If you haven’t ever tried spreading a bit of honeycomb on your toast, you ought to try it!

 

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Bennett’s also uses the leftover beeswax to make beautiful candles.  They smell so wonderful!

 

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Another great feature of this local producer is that Bennett’s Honey Farm is a Green Facility.  They installed solar panels on their plant in 2005, and now they produce 100% of the power they consume.  They are close to a Zero-Carbon Footprint business, too–Another reason to support this local business!
 
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Photo courtesy of Bennett’s

Come into Lassen’s and try some of our Lassen’s Label, locally-produced honey!  It is available in several varieties–Orange, Sage, Buckwheat, Clover, and more!

 

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Love the sweet local stories–and thanks, Mykey, for the pictures!
 

Love,

Lassen’s